U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly delivered a victory to our nation's wild horse and burros on June 28th.
Friends of Animals filed a lawsuit in 2018 against the BLM for its decision to reduce the size and slow the growth of the Twin Peaks wild horse herd over 10 years.
FoA in their complaint had several claims, and the court did not rule in favor of all claims. This win was on the following claims made:
"Plaintiff insists that “BLM does not have authority to issue open-ended decisions that allow it to remove wild horses and burros over the course of ten years,” because these future roundups will not have occurred “immediately” after the agency's initial excess determination. Id. at 14-15. Finally, Plaintiff maintains that the Decision and its potential for multiple round ups over a ten-year period violates the WHBA's requirement that BLM make gather decisions on the basis of “current” information. See Compl. ¶ 135."
Judge Kollar-Kotelly responded with the following ruling:
"...the Court agrees that BLM's ten-year deadline exceeds its discretion, per statutory command, to “immediately remove excess animals from the range so as to achieve appropriate management levels.”
This judgement means that the BLM 10-year plans are unlawful. We do not yet know if this ruling will make previously approved 10-year plans illegal or not. We are looking into that, and we will certainly fight any we see that are not yet approved by BLM in the final decisions.
While this doesn't stop the gathers it does mean that BLM cannot continue to create 10-year plans togather horses whenver they are over AML. They must follow proper NEPA regulations and at a minimum do an Environmental assessment for EVERY gather they plan to do. This ruling returns to the American public our right to due process in this small part of the wild horse issue that we battle to protect our wild equines from decades long mismanagement.
To read the entire memorandum opinion you can click on the link below.
Acronyms used in this article:
BLM - Bureau of Land Management
NEPA - National Environmental Policy Act
AML - Appropriate Management Level (population limit)
You can find laws linked on under our Resources tab in the drop down menu.